As former UK National Rally Champion Paul Bird’s Ford Focus WRC08 landed at Grantley Adams International Airport yesterday (Tuesday), the final countdown for Sol Rally Barbados (June 4/5) started. Overseas competitors, family and friends are arriving in the island daily, to prepare for the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport international.

The first official function is Scrutineering at Simpsons Motors in Warrens on Saturday (May 28); competition cars will arrive from before 1.00pm, so the scrutineers can carry out their work in a secure area, and all are mandated to remain on site between 3.00pm and 6.00pm, during which time driver interviews and related programming will be broadcast on the popular Giant Daylight Screen.

The island’s knowledgeable fans will find much new to interest them, although ‘Birdy’s Focus is familiar; now re-liveried to reflect backing from Frank Bird Poultry, it is the same car in which he finished third last year, his worst result in three visits, having finished second to Kris Meeke in the previous two years. After all three had led Sol RB10, he was beaten by local aces Roger Skeete and Paul Bourne, having enjoyed what he described as “the best rally battle I’ve ever been involved in.”

Of the 19 cars that have journeyed across the Atlantic this year, 10 are new to local enthusiasts, whose appetite for enthusiastically-driven rear-wheel-drive cars will be satisfied in full measure; from the Ford Anglia WRC, via a host of Escorts and the 5-litre Capri Perana, to the Porsche 911 RSR of Steve Perez, there is something for everyone.

Major shake-up in store for island’s modified classes

With newcomers, competitors returning to the sport and interesting overseas entries, the Barbados Rally Club’s modified classes are set for a shake-up. In Modified 7, there is a terrific mix, headed by former class-winners Adrian Linton (Ravensden/Garbage Gobbler/JAD Performance Vauxhall Astra GSi), co-driven for the first time in the island’s premier event by son Dominic, and Freddie Gale (Gale’s Hatcheries/Nassco/VP Fuels Toyota Corolla RunX) both fielding either updgraded (Linton) or new (Gale) machinery.

And they may need it, to fight off the challenges of Chicken Pen Racing’s Kyle Catwell (Carib Beer/Freekz Customz/Ellesmere Quarries/Cutters Of Barbados Volkswagen Golf GTI) and Ron Greaves (Kick Energy Drink/Ellesmere Quarries/McCarthys Garage/Valvoline/Kumho/Soldier Man Trucking Honda Civic Type-R). Daryl Clarke comes down from SuperModified 9 in his Ellco Rentals/Roberts Manufacturing/Mom's Pasta Products Honda Civic, while the returning Jeremy Sisnett brings further variety with his Ford Fiesta.

Scotland’s Allan Mackay is sure to provide some entertainment in his unique Ford Anglia WRC, while the dark horse here may be Chris Ullyett in the Ullyett's Machine Shop/MG America/Proj-Rx/Food and Pharma Equipment Ford Escort RS2000.

In M6, last year’s winner Jamal Brathwaite may be up against it, too, in the FG Wilson Generators/AM Electrical Solutions/Carib Beer/Meridian Windows and Doors/Chicken Pen Racing/AutoPlus Motors Inc/D2 Suspension/Valvoline Lubricants/Ellesmere Quarries Mitsubishi Mirage RS. Although multiple champion Edward Corbin has withdrawn, the local challenge still includes Neil Corbin, down from SM9 in the Nassco/Jason Jones/Auto Solutions Toyota Starlet, Dane Skeete (One World Group/Da Costa Mannings Auto Centre Peugeot 206) and the returning Jason Cozier (Peugeot 205 GTi).

From overseas come Scotland’s Kenny Hall (Super 1600 Halltune Ford Puma), Trinidad’s Vishal Dhanraj (Gulf/The Dispensary/V3 Rally Team Toyota Starlet) and Paul Horton, representing the Turks & Caicos Islands in the Sky Rally Sport/H Racing/Java Island Honda Civic.

In M5, Sean Cox (Simpson Motors Suzuki Swift Gti) defends home honour against a Celtic invasion - Ireland’s Glenn Campbell (Burn Road Trade Sales/Agnew Recovery/Phillip Holland Car Sales/Motorcare/Moto Glass/Dyno Tune Rolling Road Nissan Micra Kit Car), Scotland’s Alex Hall (Halltune Opel Corsa) and Welshman Paul Rees (Dynamic IS/ Vauxhall Astra).

In the Production classes, while Sean Field (Field Insurance Brokers/Castrol Oil/Ackee Tree/AM Realty Services/Landscapes in Harmony Peugeot 306) is on his own in P3, it should be all action in P2, where last year’s winner Fabien Clarke (Barbados Business Listings/Crimson Jade Consulting/RCR Tours/Bovell Auto Repair/Simple Trucking Suzuki Ignis Sport), faces Paul Inniss (Bartex Concrete Works/Palmart/Newton’s Building Services Honda Civic) and Conor Roach (Peugeot 106 Rallye).

Finally, the new Clubman class pits the first all-female crew to contest the BRC’s premier event, Shannon Kirton and Lisa Roett in the Diamonds International/Ullyett’s Machine Shop/Fingerprint Designs Datsun 160J against Jeremy Croney and Mario Clermont (Quality Tyre/Lubriguard Peugeot 206).

Sol Rally Barbados 2011 (June 4/5) and Shell V-Power King of the Hill (May 29) are organised by the Barbados Rally Club, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2007; title sponsor is the Sol Group. Marketing partners are Simpson Motors, LIME, Automotive Art, Banks and Karcher; official partners are the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association, Barbados Tourism Authority, Tourism Development Corporation, Divi Southwinds Beach Resort, Geest Line and Virgin Atlantic Airways; associate sponsors are Stoute’s Car Rental, Glacial Pure, Chefette, Field Insurance and Sagicor.

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